Thursday, May 31, 2012

Cohabitating Conundrum

Mr. Wonderful and I are going to look at a house together. I think I might be having a mini heart attack. It's not that I don't want to live with this guy...someday. I do. It's just very difficult for me to really know when that day is. I met my ex-husband at 19. We bought our first house at 23. We got married at 24 and were together for nearly 18 years. I was 39 years old when I finally had some independence, freedom and alone time. And quite honestly, I've been thoroughly enjoying my last ten years of independence, freedom and alone time. Don't be mistaken, I love my boyfriend and I totally enjoy his company. He never grates on my nerves, we always have a blast and I'm certain we're in it for the long haul. So why am I hesitant about living together?

Sure there is this small issue of our decorating tastes that has been the brunt of many jokes. I am, shall we say, eclectic, vintage and worldly treasures in my decorating style. My beau is more contemporary, minimalistic and, well, masculine with regard to his decor. Since he is a dude, I guess that is a good thing. How do two people who have developed their personal styles for over forty years meld them together? When two people meet in their twenties, they generally both have crap they acquired from garage sales and grandma's basement. Milk crates and plywood make up shelves and blankets cover up the nasty sofa stains. Getting together means chucking all that and starting anew developing their tastes and style together. I've already been there and done that. I now have my own funky style that, quite frankly, I like! My boyfriend is the most easy-going fella there is, but I can tell he wouldn't pause for one second at tossing some of my nostalgic family heirlooms (yes, that is what I'm calling them) to the curb.

Once while browsing through an antique store, I spotted an amazing piece of furniture I could envision in a kitchen or pantry displaying some cool pottery from Portugal or Italy. At my excitement, Mr. W. just turned and walked away. I swear I detected a snicker. "What's wrong?" I demanded. "Are you laughing because there is no way in H-E-Double Hockey Sticks you can picture this in your house?" No reply.

Upon further discussion, I believe we've determined I own about two or three pieces that meet his approval.

Besides the decorating issue, which I'm pretty sure we could negotiate our way through, there is that alone time thing. I revel in coming home to my empty apartment, no noise, no questions, no demands. It is my oasis. I stay up late reading, writing, and puttering. I am the quintessential night owl. He is not.

Last weekend, we took a trip to Portland where I introduced him to some longtime friends of mine. Later one of them wrote "It sounds like he is as independent as you are--so that works."  She is right, we are both very independent, enjoy each other immensely, but also have our own interests and need for alone time.

Surely my concerns will get ironed out. Surely I won't lose "Independent George" in the process (and neither will he).  And surely when we are finally ready to take the plunge and we find the perfect home, I'll be 100% ready. Surely.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Second (or Third or Fourth) Acts

The question in the tag line asks "What is the next?" for this 40-something year old woman? After much deliberation, several years of trying on other jobs (pet sitting, art museum, attorney's office, bridal gown sales to name a few), exploring and teaching abroad, an involved application process,coercing friends and professional contacts to write letters of reference spouting words of praise, and finally, a grueling 4 1/2 hour interview, it appears the "next" in this scenario includes heading back to school. Even as I seem to be closing in on the end of my 40's, I feel excited and energized by my pursuit of a Masters in Teaching and prospective career change. It's what I've wanted to do since my first round of college courses, but others, society, my devil's advocate persona have always talked me out of it. Well, no more. I have to work for the next 20 years (at least), so I need to do something I think I'll enjoy. And frankly, the additional time off is enticing as well.

I know at least one travel friend who frowns on the limitations of the teacher travel schedule. I once asked her opinion about traveling to Argentina during Christmas time with a teacher on her break. It was expensive to fly, accommodations were going to be costly, as was everything else that time of year. Her advice? "Ditch the teacher."  Rather than ditch the teacher, I'm joining the teacher. True my vacation plans would be worked around school schedules, which equates to busier tourist seasons, higher prices and the risk of traveling with kids most of the time. I am pretty sure these are adversities I can negotiate around. An experienced explorer can find the deals sans the families. It's not as if  I plan to visit Six Flags or set sail on a Disney Cruise.

My recently engaged ex-sister-in-law told me at first she felt a little silly being "engaged" at her age. She quickly got over that and is enjoying the moment (I'm very excited for her by the way!). I, too, feel a little bit silly going back to school, to be a teacher of all things, so late in life. But hey, you know what I say? It's never too late to follow your heart, even if my heart will be the ripe old age of fifty by the time I start my new career.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Coming to Terms

For most of my life my breasts have been a source of self consciousness. That is probably normal for most girls. While penis size is a boy's biggest concern growing up, girls tend to worry about their breasts and when they will finally develop and they'll begin to look like women. The difference between girls and boys, of course, is that boys can keep their insufficient penis size hidden for quite a long time, basically until they start having sex. On the other hand, a girl's assets are in full view for the world to see, tease and poke fun at. Girls secretly try to encourage full breasts by doing crazy exercises. Remember the chant "we must, we must, we must increase our busts?" Then there were the tissue stuffing techniques and padded bras. Recall Margaret in Judy Blume's "Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret?" Poor Margaret was obsessed with her development rate, or lack thereof.

While all this was going on for the girls around me, I honestly couldn't relate. I know girls thought I was lucky to have to wear a bra in the 5th grade, but believe me, I did not feel fortunate as one of the only two girls in the 5th grade wearing a bra. And not a training bra, mind you. Mona Rubenfeld, the other over developed 5th grader, and I were endowed enough to have to wear actual grown up bras with hooks and all. Although I think we were both secretly mortified, we were probably the envy of the girls and a source of fantasy for the boys in our class. It was tough times for a couple of fairly innocent 5th graders.

These mammaries just kept on growing. Nothing could stop them. I started dieting and exercising at age 12. I realized these over sized boobs did not exactly make me look slim. In 1975 slim was definitely in. Marsha Brady, Susan Day, Cher, these were the women girls wanted to look like back then. Furthermore, halters and tube tops were the rage. I wanted to fit in.

Although I kept my weight down in general, it was never enough. Once, years ago, while shopping for bras at Nordstrom (the best place to buy bras for the full-figured gals), the sales woman walked into the dressing room shouting "where's my 32 Double D?" because she couldn't remember what room she had put me into. Humiliated, I stuck my hand up over the door and squeaked out "I'm over here." Seeing me blush, she tries to encourage me, "honey, don't be embarrassed, women would kill for your figure." Umm, that is definitely not the case, believe me. I've spent years with these things and NO ONE is ever envious. I've received comments like "you have your mother's figure" (not a compliment if you knew my mother. Lovely woman, however...). "Wow! You have huge boobs" (not exactly subtle), and "I would have done something about those things years ago."

It's only been in recent years that I've come to terms with these babies (sort of). They are there and they are just part of me, I suppose. Some women have muscular arms, some women have fabulous legs, I have these ample breasts. C'est le vie.

Last week I had my annual mammogram. Anyone over forty, and some women younger than forty, can relate to the somewhat painful, humiliating and possibly even scary procedure of the mammogram. I stood at the machine as the technician handled my breast like a piece of ham, slapping it up onto the glass plate, pushing, pulling, arranging it this way and that and then clamping down on the vice, crank, crank, craaaaank one last time. It took my breath away. "Breathe normally," she said. Is she serious? I was practically holding my breath so not one millimeter of skin would move even the slightest bit. I did not want to screw up and have a 'do over' for any part of this. On the last picture (two X-rays, two positions on each breast), she decided there was a slight wrinkle and we should do one more shot. Drats.

After feeling sufficiently man handled and hurriedly climbing back into the flimsy robe, she sent me back to the waiting room where the doctor would call me to review the results.

The outcome? My rather bodacious ta ta's got a clean bill of health! As annoying as it is that I cannot wear certain tops, that they make me look and feel even bigger than I am, and they interfere with my golf swing, I am very satisfied that they are, at least, healthy. And really, this matters more than the industrial sport bras, the constant teasing or any other messages society throws my way.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Many Tropical Vacations

"I travel a lot; I hate having my life disrupted by routine." ~ Caskie Stinnett
How many tropical vacations does it take before a girl gets a full week in the sun? Apparently, more than three. I know I shouldn't be complaining; and I'm not. Not really. I count myself as extremely lucky.
In December, my sweetie and I took a fabulous pre-Christmas trip to Belize. We visited the third week in December, shortly after the official rainy season. While the weather was better than we expected based on the forecast we viewed prior to departing Seattle, it wasn't quite as hot and sunny as we would have liked for a tropical Central American kind of vacation.
Our snorkeling day was a little cool with semi-rough waters, but the sights were beautiful and we had a great time even though it was a bit chilly. We had one half day of rain while exploring the Mayan Ruins. Luckily the hardest rainfall was during lunch. We were protected under cover as it came down in sheets around us while we enjoyed a traditional Belizean lunch of fried plantains, chicken, rice and beans. Yum. The next day, however, brought us a full day of rain (spa and book reading day!). It was still warm enough to sit out on our cabana porch, relax and read while watching the rain come down around us. One evening when we walked into the village of Hopkins for dinner and Garifuna drum music with the locals, the rain came pouring down again. Our gracious host called our hotel to come to the rescue so we wouldn't have to trudge the mile back to our cabana along the unlit, muddy, rutted, unpaved road.
On the days sunny enough to be on the beach, the clouds teased us making the sun duck in and out of view, the winds whipped and the Caribbean was not quite warm enough for this wimp to swim. Regardless, it was a beautiful and romantic setting and we did have loads of fun. Besides the ruins, snorkeling, and couples massage, we explored the area via the hotel's beach bikes, we went zip lining in the jungle and experienced cave tubing. We enjoyed rum punch and chocolate monkey cocktails at the pool bar and met some very interesting folks including locals, ex-pats and tourists. We both agreed that we would definitely visit Belize again and explore even more of the amazing countryside and the Caye's, but maybe in January or February.
We spent our second tropical vacation this winter in the Sunshine State visiting my brother and his wife in the Florida Keys. Lucky them (and us), they were spending the winter at a friend's house on Big Pine Key, just 30 minutes north of Key West. The weather for the better part of January was in the upper 70's and even 80's. I got regular updates assuring us "the weather has been beautiful, come on down!" We arrived late the night before Super Bowl Sunday. The plan was to go into Key West and wander around, watch the sunset at the famous Mallory Square, then go watch the game at a couple of fun bars. Sounded like a blast even though we aren't avid football fans. Luckily I stowed my umbrella in my bag because it rain on and off most of the day. I kept thinking positive. "I think it's brightening!" I said frequently throughout the day. We enjoyed our wandering nonetheless and stopped into "Half Shell Oyster Bar" for a bite before going to view the sunset. Suddenly, the skies opened up and it was coming down in buckets. sunset tonight. C'est le vie~ we headed to the bar my brother had in mind to watch the game. Unfortunately, the bars in Key West are mostly open air. They had been planning for sunshine and crowds. Buffets that were laid out for half time feasting, ended up looking sad and soggy by the end of the game. Unlike us hardy Seattlites, Key Westerners do not venture out in foul weather. By the time we finished bar hopping, watching the game, dancing to music, and imbibing in a few cocktails, we found ourselves with sandals in hand, water up to our calves trudging through the flash flood back to the car. The next day was sunny, dry and warm. We rode my brother's bikes to the beach for some of what we came for.
The rains continued off and on throughout the week, but mostly in the early mornings while we were still sleeping or sipping our morning coffee and chatting. Luckily the weather didn't really interfere with our daily activities. We trekked all over Key West sight seeing, rented scooters, did some kayaking, and rode bikes around Big Pine, Bahia Honda and No Name Keys. We had some cloudy days, I never actually swam in the ocean (too cool still) and I wore a sweater much of the time, but even so, it was a great vacation and the weather was much better than Seattle in February. We hope to be invited back next year, but maybe in March.
Third time's a charm, they say. In early March a group of girls flew to Oahu to visit another friend and celebrate a birthday. I'd only been to Hawaii twice before and both times the weather was incredible. Finally I was going to get some tropical sunshine, hot weather, and serious beach time. Before leaving Seattle I decided to experiment with a spray tan. While a little spendy, I figured it was worth it since I'd be donning a bathing suit and skimpy warm weather wear.
Upon touching down, rain streaked the windows of the plane. It drizzled on and off the rest of the day, but we weren't too concerned. We'd only just arrived after all. Day two, down pour. We took a morning walk along the beach and when the rain got too steady, we headed to the shops. Being the optimistic group that we are we bought sunglasses and swimsuit wraps. Certainly these items would come in handy by tomorrow.
Our plans of a beach party birthday picnic, sunset cruise and peaceful nights' sleep were squelched by the rain and high winds. By the fourth night I was amazed that we'd been there that long and still hadn't seen a sunset. No matter. We had an incredible time, as women tend to do when we travel in packs. We managed a smattering of beach time, a hike up Diamond Head, snorkeling, daily beach walking, shopping, yoga, dancing the night away, great food, music, champagne, and loads of laughs! The weather was not about to stop us from having a fantastic vacation. My spray tan, however, had pretty much faded before any skin had been exposed.
I'm not giving up on my search for sunny, warm beaches either. I told my brother I was heading to San Diego in May. "Why," he said "do they need rain?"

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Cost of the Common Cold

Every year when I visit my doctor for my annual physical she confirms my declaration that I am "healthy as a horse." I have a pretty sturdy immune system and generally feel healthy and strong all year long. But even so, I am susceptible to the occasional common cold, especially when my very affectionate boyfriend can't keep his cold carrying lips off of mine. Grant it, lately I've been surrounded by germ toting friends, co-workers, bus pals. I could have picked it up from anyone. However, I tend not to kiss those people.

Besides feeling like crap for several days, unable to work out or play outside, what is the cost of the common cold? I'm one of those people who tries everything and anything. And I did.

Various juices - $7.79
Saltine crackers-$2.50
Cough Drops - $2.49
Zicam - $12.99
Theraflu - $6.89
Nyquil - $7.49
More cough drops- $2.49
Mucinex - $7.49
Various teas -$7.00
Sue Bee Honey-$4.29
Theraflu (again!) - $6.89
Third bag of cough drops - $2.49
Oscillococcinum - $10.94
Chinese Ginger Honey Crystals - $5.50 (a very large bag)
A passionate evening with my lover after a ten day cold hiatus- Priceless

Monday, January 2, 2012

It's Just Semantics

Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas? Which is PC? If I greet three Jewish friends with a Happy Hanukkah will the one Christian friend within earshot become offended? To be safe I offer a "Season's Greetings." I was at a New Year's Eve party having a discussion about Kwanzaa. None of us were 100 percent sure of the actual meaning of this particular holiday. It's only recently become recognized in this corner of the world. However, we were more than happy to include it as one of the December holidays in a "Happy Holidays" greeting. More than one friend has pointed out that they don't really celebrate Christmas for what it is, a Christian holiday. They go through the motions for family and friends, but really they find more meaning and spirituality in celebrating the Winter Solstice.

Whether we acknowledge Christmas, Hanukkah, the Solstice or Festivus for the Rest of Us, like Frank Costanza, it's all semantics. The general meaning is the same. We are simply wishing our friends, loved ones or even strangers on the street a happy time during the last month of the year. It's a time to put our troubles aside for a brief moment, reflect on the past several months, spend time with friends and loved ones and take time out from the rat race to enjoy and live in the moment of whatever this time of year means to you.

I'm not sure when this constant battle over which holiday was the ONE we are celebrating became such a political matter, but too many people get their noses out of joint. I overheard a co-worker's reply to someone who wished him a "Happy Holiday". He quite indignantly said "I say Merry Christmas!" I wanted to stand up and shout over my cubicle wall, "Take it easy, pal; she is just wishing you well not making any assumptions about your beliefs!" Instead I just shook my head in quiet disbelief.

One phrase or wish that seems to be acceptable to any person of any affiliation is Happy New Year! Regardless if someone has had a great 2011 or a challenging one, wishing her a Happy New Year is a wish well received. If your prior year was full of good things, you are happy to anticipate what the year ahead will bring. If a more challenging year has brought struggles and disappointments, the optimism of a fresh new start is encouraging. Either way wishing someone a Happy New Year is generally a safe bet.

So Happy New Year to all! May 2012 be the best one yet!

Monday, December 26, 2011

What Makes a Wander Woman?

It's come to my attention that my title as Wander Woman, might not be suitable. As a friend kindly pointed out, I'm no longer wandering. Contrary to my initial intentions, I've had the same address for almost six years. Although I haven't painted my apartment (too permanent), I have conceded to hanging wall art, and I am easily locatable via Face Book, Google or I have full-time employment that I'm expected (by my bosses) to take seriously. I have signed up for classes in January, and I have found myself in what looks like could turn into a long-term relationship. Actually, it's been well over a year which is already long-term in my world.

When I first returned from my European wanderings, my friends considered me a flight risk. My plan was to flee the Pacific Northwest as soon as I found the place I desired to flee to and was financially able. Given the facts above, it doesn't appear this Wander Woman will be wandering off very far or for very long in the very near future. Regardless, like many women (and men), I am still a wander woman at heart.

Although my wanderings look different these days, I am still a traveller, an adventure seeker, an explorer. The year 2011 included travel adventures both close to home and further afield. In March, Mr. Wonderful and I went to San Diego for a friend's wedding reception. San Diego always feels like a vacation somewhere special when the Seattle rains have overstayed their welcome. We enjoyed the Southern California sunshine, had a blast wishing our friends a happy marriage, and did our fair share of day dreaming about moving to San Diego.

In April, my best pal and I embarked on a two week trip to Peru which included a trek to Machu Picchu via the Inka Trail. A trip of a lifetime, we set out to explore Peru hoping for adventures, laughs and further bonding of our 30+ year friendship. Our time together certainly accomplished all three. As I gasped my way up steep inclines our very first day, my fit outdoorsy friend assured me I was in fine shape to make the four day trek to Machu Picchu the following week. We were just getting acclimated; I live at sea level after all. We spent the first week exploring the surrounding Cuzco region, seeking hostels that provided hot water and toilet paper along the way (although, after the first hostel, we learned to carry our own just in case). We visited the colorful local markets, hiked several "warm up" trails to various ruins to prepare our bodies and lungs for the big trek to come. We sampled local flavors, and this adventurer must have eaten something foreign which resulted in spending an entire night in and out of the bathroom. This is where the further bonding began.

When our trek began, she cheered me on as I lugged a far too heavy pack (my own fault) up the steep terrain. I offered supportive words as she frequently commented on the toilet situation (or rather lack thereof). When our long awaited arrival to the Sun Gates offered us nothing but fog, we both needed a bit of cheering, but when the sun broke out an hour later, the views of this amazing wonder took our breath away. It was definitely a memorable trip for two long time friends.

For my birthday in July, Mr. Wonderful whisked me away on a surprise "all expense paid" trip to San Francisco. Although close to home, it was a city I'd never been to and had always wanted to visit. We stayed at the swank Le Meridien Hotel in the financial district. We walked along the waterfront, took the boat over to Sausalito, visited Ghiradelli Square and ate a Ghiradelli square. We walked through China Town, over to Coit Tower, and then across and up to Lombard Street. Saw the painted ladies, Haight Ashbury, and Pacific Heights. We walked and walked. And when we weren't walking, we rode the bicycle built for two through Golden Gate Park where we hopped off to explore the Japanese Gardens, the Conservatory of Flowers and the beautiful Pacific Ocean. On our final day we walked along the Presidio and then across the Golden Gate Bridge where we walked, and kissed and walked some more, and day dreamed about living in San Francisco. For our final trek back to the hotel before heading to the airport, we boarded a street car so I could experience a true San Francisco treat. My sweetie wined and dined me (hence all the need for the walking) in true birthday fashion. It was a trip and a birthday I will never forget.

In October, Mr. W. and I took a road trip down the Oregon Coast and had a long weekend at Nye Beach. I had never been to Nye Beach and Mr. W. had only passed through on one of his motorcycle journeys a few years ago. We stayed at the charming Sylvia Beach Hotel where each room is named and decorated for a famous author. The first two nights we stayed in Virginia Wolf and our last night was spent in Agatha Christie with gorgeous views and sounds of waves crashing right outside our window. We chose the coast expecting stormy fall weather, which is always romantic in October. We took our books, warm clothes and planned to hunker down next to a fire for three days. Instead, Mother Nature bestowed upon us unseasonably warm weather, so we took many walks on the beach, meandered around the small seaside town, and of course, sampled delicious local cuisine. We love walking which is good because we equally love sampling.

The travel year concluded with a week in Belize. A daily deal from Tippr came across my desk and I was quickly sucked in. Seven nights for two at a beautiful resort in southern Belize. A brief discussion with Mr. W., a quick look at the website, the clock was ticking, I bought it! Once the airfare and ground transportation were added on, the 'deal' wasn't looking like such a 'deal' any longer. But no looking back, we plunged in and decided we'd make the most of it. And we did. Jaguar Reef Resort sat on the golden beach looking as beautiful as boasted on the website. Pristine landscaping, tropical flowers and local fauna (iguanas, geckos and opossums) shared our thatched roof cabana. The food at the resort was marginal, but we, you guessed it, walked into the rustic village of Hopkins and found local flavors to sample. We also met wonderful people, and at one point, tripped across a group of traditional Garifuna drummers playing outside our favorite restaurant.

On the second day of our trip, we joined an excursion out to the Barrier Reef for some of the world renown snorkeling. It was a clear day, but winds churned up the sea a bit. A rather jarring ride out to the reef on our small boat forced me to keep one hand holding onto the side of the boat while the other was making sure I stayed inside my swimsuit top! Once snorkeling we saw an array of colorful tropical fish, amazing coral, and unique plant life. Although I didn't remove my silver earrings the Barracuda did not sidle up to me as I'd sort of hoped.

Our next excursion took us to two of the Mayan Ruins (Xunantunich Ruins and Cahal Pech Ruins) near the border of Guatemala. It began to rain lightly just as we arrived at Xunantunich and climbing the slippery limestone steps up the 130 foot Castillo proved exhilarating to say the least. Even in the rain, the views were spectacular, so lush and green. After a traditional lunch of rice and beans with chicken, fried plantain and empanadas, the down pour that developed subsided and we headed on to Cahal Pech. Smaller than Xunantunich, but no less impressive, Cahal Pech included various plazas, temples, palaces, and ball courts. The now dry weather allowed us to poke around, explore and walk through the structures placing us in a time our modern minds could only imagine.

Zipping through the jungle on a cable is something I had always wanted to experience and it was just as fantastic as I'd hoped. Each turn took us further up the mountainside and the cable lines got longer and faster. Flying through the jungle made me ponder how the spider monkeys might feel as they swing from tree to tree. I wasn't ready to finish. I don't think anyone was, not even the woman who was at first very nervous to be attempting this stunt.

But we had to wrap it up as it was time for the cave tubing portion of the program. We hiked through the jungle until we came to the spot where we put our tubes in, tethered ourselves together and floated down the river inside caves filled with crystal stalactites, stalagmites and other interesting formations. Cave tubing was more relaxing and peaceful compared to the adrenaline rush of the day's earlier activity, but still quite amazing.

Besides the excursions and exploring the raw basic lifestyle of this beautiful country, we spent ample time lounging on the beach, reading our books, people watching and sipping cocktails at the pool bar. Oh, and of course, day dreaming about buying a place in Belize.

So while my true Wander Woman days may be taking a break, hopefully it's a brief one and these shorter vacations will satisfy my cravings until more extensive wanderings can once again commence.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giving Thanks for Big and Small

Ah yes, Thanksgiving. It's the time of year when the weather in Seattle suddenly turns to soggy, windy nastiness. It was just last weekend I was out enjoying a beautiful, albeit rather chilly, ride on my motorcycle taking in the golden leaves, blue skies and dry roads. Apparently, that was this fair weather biker's last ride for the season. The rains came on Monday and haven't stopped for three days. Time to winterize the bike and store it until spring.

On the upside, rain in town equals snow in the mountains, so it is also time to drag the skis out of storage and head up to the mountains for my winter playtime activities. For that, I am thankful.

Before the Thanksgiving Day dinner, many families share the tradition of going around the table to announce what they are thankful for. Health, family, friends generally top the list. They top my list too. There is no doubt that I am thankful every day, not just at Thanksgiving, for my great health, my wonderful family, amazing friends, and, of course, Mr. Wonderful. But the list goes on.

I am thankful that I have choices. I don't always make the best choices, but at least I get to choose. Sometimes I waiver over my choices. Okay, I almost always waiver over my choices. Let's face it, as a woman in the 21st Century, I probably have more choices than any woman in history. But I am thankful that I have them, nonetheless. I think about women in many other cultures who are not blessed with the ability to make decisions and choose for themselves. Are they happier because life is simpler, or because they don't know that they are missing anything? Maybe. But I'd love to see all women at least have the chance to make decisions for themselves and choose their own destiny.

I'm thankful that I had the parents I had. Not everyone can say that. I didn't grow up in a Beaver Cleaver family where everything was perfect and my father's idea of reprimanding his kids was a stern talking to that included a parable and a lesson learned. Far from it. Money was tight; feeding a family of eight had to be rough on my dad, and at least one of us kids was causing some sort of trouble or another. However, somehow my parents did teach us life lessons in their own way. Among other things, they taught me to give people the benefit of the doubt, be open, trusting and compassionate, lend a helping hand, live life, and always keep your sense of humor no matter what. That keeping my sense of humor thing has gotten me through a lot of life's pickles.

As much as it is not my dream or even the slightest bit satisfying, I am thankful that I have the job I have. In these difficult times, being jobless is all too common and so many people are struggling. I find it sobering to walk past so many homeless, beggars, and people in need of assistance these days. These are just the folks I see in my daily travels. There are many more who aren't so obvious; quietly suffering in their homes just trying to stave off creditors and keep a roof over their heads.

And even the smaller things deserve the attention of a 'thank you.'

1. I'm thankful that all the clothes in my closet fit. That's probably due to the fact that I clean out my closet regularly so I don't have an array of fat clothes and skinny clothes. I just have clothes.

2. I'm thankful that my wonderful friend gave me a gift certificate for a spa treatment for my birthday four months ago and I hadn't had time to use it until today! What a great way to kick off my long weekend; I spent the day at the spa getting thoroughly pampered by Molly and Misty (their real names).

3. I'm thankful that my boyfriend also enjoys some of the same things I do: great shoes, spa treatments, curling up with a good book and taking long walks.

4. I'm also thankful that my boyfriend is sometimes "all boy": loves working on cars and motorcycles, playing drums and watching stupid boy movies. Couples need their separate time too.

5. And I'm thankful that, although my life is sometimes busier than I'd like, it's a full and satisfying one.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Anti-Age Weapons: Scalpel, Spackle or Scissors

As I sat looking around the room at the faces of my mostly older-than-me book club members a few weeks ago, I realized NONE of them had the deep forehead creases I possess. I tried not to let it bother me, as I listened to the conversation focused on the coloring of one woman’s grey locks. I tried to defend her decision to cling to her grey strands. “Keep your grey; it’s you,” I proclaimed. No one was listening. The others suggested, go darker, get highlights, get low lights. “I just want some texture,” she said pulling her hair up on end.

I am not sure if our society has become more and more obsessed with anti-aging, but this obsession is beginning at an earlier age. Women in their 20’s are getting “work done”.

Admittedly, I struggle with the idea of cosmetic surgery, not with the idea of actually having anything done, because I couldn't afford it regardless. But I do struggle with whether I think it’s a good idea or not. Would I have something done if I could, in fact, afford it?

Part of me says, no way. Why can’t we just age gracefully? There is nothing weirder or more unnatural than the 70 year old woman who has a taut expressionless face from an overdose of Botox. We’ve all seen this person. She starts out small, just a little touch up around the eye, then maybe a little more the next time she goes in for servicing. Eventually, she looks like she is always walking into a surprise party. It’s startling. I find it difficult to hold a serious conversation with someone who looks like she is in a constant state of shock or surprise because of cosmetic surgery O.D. The animated facial expressions are lost and it feels like I’m talking to a puppet.

Furthermore, I tend to want to inspect them more closely to figure out what the heck is going on. One woman I knew was pulled so tight from a face lift, her hairline was all out of whack. Her lower lip had so much collagen, she appeared to have difficulty speaking. I found this distracting to our conversation.

Grant it, we often find ourselves talking with people who have had strokes, burns, or other disfiguring life events and I don’t find myself quite so distracted. But the former made conscious choices to alter their appearances. It’s difficult not to stare a bit in wonder, whether it was a job well done or a hack job.

My dental hygienist had visited Buenos Aires, Argentina last spring. Apparently, the medical system there pays for one cosmetic surgery per person per year and they take advantage of that benefit. “That is a city full of beautiful people,” she told me. Everyone definitely checks each other out openly inspecting what work they’ve had done. Not a place for a self-conscious person who isn’t comfortable in her own skin to visit. My very naturel dental hygienist, however, is quite comfortable in her skin.

Besides the cash, some factors to consider before having something done to my face would be the recovery time, the risk of looking worse than I started out, and the possible addiction. I’m pretty sure if I had a little zap eliminating the forehead creases, I would decide I needed a touch up around the eyes. Then the mouth would be next. Before I knew it, I’d be that “tight faced” woman everyone gossips about.

As far as what people should or should not do with their looks is certainly up to them and what makes them feel good. It seems no one comes out of those procedures saying “Oh, heavens, I really over did it, didn’t I?”

I’d probably stay away from hacking away at my face, but if I were truly going to do something, I might consider some other parts of my body. But only if I had the cash, the time, the patience, and a significantly high rate of success were guaranteed.

As far as the money it costs for these procedures, I could probably pool all the dough I’ve spent on cosmetics and creams and have enough for a little Botox and change left over. The amount of products I tend to use as I age has increased substantially.

I’ve gone from a cleanser, toner, and moisturizer to those three, plus night cream, hydrating mask, brightener, eye cream, pore eliminator (spackle for wrinkles), foundation primer, tinted moisturizer, SPF creams, highlighters, powders, and concealers. All this before the actual makeup even hits the canvas! What used to take me five minutes in front of the mirror, now takes 20. Maybe a shot of Botox on the forehead wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

My wrinkles are the product of my over active facial expressions and storytelling, as well as age, genetics, sun damage and other environmental factors. I know I won’t actually go through with any permanent or semi-permanent cosmetic alterations (just yet). Maybe I will just cut some bangs.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Thoughtful Words From Jobs

After news of Steve Jobs’ death last week, several articles, emails, past interviews and social media updates hit the network. One such inspiring email crossed my path, a YouTube video of Jobs giving a graduation speech to the class of 2005 Stanford graduates.

In his speech Jobs advises his young eager audience, “You’ve got to find what you love…keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”

These are easy words to live by at a young age, before mortgage payments, marriage, car loans, children and other life expenses start building up and you are forced to do what you don’t so much love, but it pays the bills. Depressing, I know; however, it’s true for many of us. I went to school to write; I studied journalism. When I graduated from college and started looking for jobs in my field, I was beaten down not having enough experience. I landed a “high paying” job in the insurance industry and there I stayed, for far too many years. Sure I was able to afford a new car, home, go on vacations, and buy nice clothes, but I was unsatisfied.

Finding your life’s purpose sounds like some kind of spiritual woo woo spouted by people like Gandhi or Mother Theresa. Nice idea but completely impractical in our western society.

Jobs’ words “don’t settle” continue to rattle around in my brain. As we all hear these words with regard to finding a life partner, they also apply to finding your life’s work. Especially, since we will most likely work longer than we will stay with the same partner.

I left the insurance industry (as well as my long-time mismatched partner) for nine years while I went abroad to teach English, travel, practice my writing, try out various odd jobs and consider business ideas. I toyed with the idea of returning to school, but either I or others would talk myself out of that venture. Too expensive. Too much work. Too difficult at my ripe old age. Not necessary. All these voices steered me away from what I actually wanted to do. Instead, with growing debt from so much “under”-employment, and a rising rent, I plunked myself right back into my old job at the insurance factory. Financially, it was a smart move, but I was once again unsatisfied. I knew this was not my life’s purpose and felt I had “settled”.

Jobs knew what I was going through. “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

I followed my heart once, chucking it all nine years ago and trekking off to Europe for an unknown adventure. It worked out well. I had an amazing experience, one I will never forget. Nor will I ever regret it. That’s the thing about following one’s heart; no one ever dies saying they wished they’d never followed their heart or intuition.

My heart craves teaching, traveling and writing. I have started on my path to ensure I can do these things and earn a living in the process. How I will achieve those goals, how I will pay for my venture, what others might think of my choices, all secondary.